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EPA Finds PCB-Containing Equipment for Sale Without Proper Identification on eBay

Release Date: 10/02/2009
Contact Information: Elias Rodriguez (212) 637-3664, rodriguez.elias@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) Advertising old electrical equipment on eBay that contained polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) turned out to be a losing proposition for Railside LLC, a factory surplus liquidator, after the sale was discovered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the company fined. The Caledonia, New York based company advertised an old capacitor for sale without having it properly marked or stored as required under the federal regulations governing toxic substances. PCBs are man-made chemicals that persist in the environment and were widely used in electrical products prior to 1978. PCBs can affect the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system and cause cancer in animals.

“The environment is definitely the winning bidder on this one, as the case will raise awareness among all buyers and sellers that environmental regulations must be followed, even through online sales,” said George Pavlou, Acting EPA Regional Administrator. “There are untold numbers of electrical equipment such as capacitors and transformers for sale all over the world. If they were made prior to the ban, they could contain PCBs, so let the buyer beware.”

PCB-containing electrical equipment must be marked so that it is easily recognizable and not disposed of improperly. EPA investigators found Railside offering to sell the unmarked General Electric Pyranol capacitor on eBay, an online auction Web site. EPA then inspected the seller’s warehouse, and alleged that Railside violated PCB regulations by failing to mark its capacitor with a label identifying it as containing PCBs as prescribed by federal law. Railside responded quickly and cooperated with EPA; the Agency settled for a penalty of $250 and an enforceable agreement to properly dispose of the PCB-containing equipment. This disposal cost the seller $1,200. It should be noted that eBay was not a party to this enforcement action and did not violate any environmental regulations in this case.

Federal regulations require that transformers and capacitors containing three pounds or more of fluids containing PCBs be identified by specific PCB marks to be placed on the equipment by the owner or user if they contain 500 parts per million of PCBs.

PCBs had been widely used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications until they were banned in 1979. Electrical equipment such as capacitors and transformers, as well as many other consumer and industrials products, may contain PCBs. More than 1.5 billion pounds of PCBs were manufactured in the United States before the EPA banned their use with very narrow exceptions.

This action was brought under the Toxic Substances Control Act, the federal law regulating the use and disposal of PCBs. The regulations are designed to protect the public and the environment from being exposed to PCBs.

For more information about the proper handling of PCB containing materials and equipment, visit: http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/hazard/tsd/pcbs/index.htm

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